Alopecia areata is a medical condition that results in "patchy" hair loss or balding spots on the scalp. A one-month celebration is held every September, to raise public awareness of this devestating condition across the nation. In this article, we will discuss alopecia areata as a condition, the symptoms and how it is being treated today.
What causes alopecia areata?
The specific cause for alopecia areata is unknown, however it is thought to be an autoimmune disorder that causes the body's immune system to attack its own follicles causing hair loss. A biopsy of the affected skin may reveal immune lymphocytes (white cells) in the hair bulb of the follicle. Alopecia areata has been associated with other medical conditions such as thyroid disorders, vitiligo, lupus, and ulcerative colitis. Therefore, it is important to rule out any underlying medical conditions first.
The most obvious and common symptom of alopecia areata is one or more bald spots on the scalp, each spot about the size of a quarter. In rare cases, larger areas of the scalp will have thinning otherwise known as "diffuse alopecia areata". In extreme cases, all of the hair follicles on the head will bald, as a result of the condition called alopecia totalis.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for alopecia areata and current treatments, while somewhat effective, offer limited results. The current treatments for alopecia areata include: steroid injections, topical corticosteroids, topical immunotherapy, Rogaine (minoxidil), and ultra violet therapy. In most cases, even without any treatment the hair follicles regrow on their own after a period of time. In extreme cases, the hair loss may be permanent. Hair restoration surgery may be an option to restore hair in a bald area. However, there is no guarantee that the condition won't return in the future.
The outset of alopecia areata can be a stressful and psychologically damaging. However, the good news is that in most cases the condition is temporary and the hair follicles return to their normal life cycle after a period of time. Depending on the severity of the condition, hair loss concelaers like Toppik and DermMatch may help disguise the bald spots. In some individuals hair transplant surgery may be an option to restore hair in the bald spots.
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